Thursday, March 29, 2012

Water Soluble Graphite

Last week, after surviving long enough to complete my daffodil sketch, I moved to a different spot on the patio and created this sketch of a metal chicken that likes to hang out under one of the bushes.

sketch of metal chicken - dry
watersoluble graphite on paper
approx 7" x 6"

I used a "medium wash" Derwent Watersoluble Sketching pencil for the sketch.

I've had the pencil for a while, and even though it has a permanent spot in my sketching pencil case, I have only used it once or twice before. My avoidance has nothing to do with the pencil. It is more out of habit and the comfort level I have with my typical sketching materials than anything else.

I'm not quite sure what made me grab it last week, but I'm happy I tried it out again.  I like the thicker point and the feel of the pencil on the paper. It was a perfectly nice pencil to sketch with.

And then it got better.

After scanning the sketch in its original version, I used my water brush to wet the lines. You can see the results below.
same sketch of metal chicken after wetting
watersoluble graphite on paper
approx 7" x 6"

I love how the use of the water brush turned a rather scribbly sketch into something more refined. The range of values is great. And since it takes very little water to dissolve the marks, the pencil can be used in a regular sketchbook, which is how I used it here.

I will definitely be using this pencil again! Between the Inktense pencils and now the Watersoluble Graphite pencil, it seems that Derwent products currently make up a rather large part of my sketching kit.

(The opinion expressed here is not a paid endorsement. It is an unsolicited review of my experience. Derwent has no idea who I am.)


One final reminder, you are down to the last few days to sign up for my email newsletter if you want to receive the premier edition. The April newsletter will be sent out to subscribers next week. I'm very excited! Go to this page if you would like to sign up. Thank you for your interest!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hazards of Sketching

daffodil sketch
graphite on paper

We have been having absolutely beautiful weather the last couple of weeks. Yesterday I finally made time to go outside and sketch some of the Spring flowers, trees and the random garden ornament.

Since I was headed outside anyway, I decided to refill my empty bird feeder before I settled in. Perhaps this wasn't the best idea.

What I didn't realize was that there is apparently some sort of "Bat-Signal" in our neighborhood which calls birds to refilled feeders.

sketch of metal garden ornament
graphite on paper

For my first sketch I sat on a small cushion on the patio right in front of a large bunch of daffodils. The daffodils are growing up right next to the hook that holds the bird feeder.

Within minutes a little bird showed up - drawn by the Bat-Signal that is invisible to the human eye - and landed in the dogwood tree behind the daffodils. He was happily hopping around until he spotted me. When he saw me, he froze for a split second, then started wildly flapping his little wings and flew away in what I can only assume was panic.

This scene repeated itself multiple times, including with a pair of woodpeckers. The way they frantically flew away and the sounds of their beating wings started to freak me out a bit. I mean what if in their confusion they flew at me instead of away from me? Or what if they flew at me on purpose with the intent to attack?!

... What? It could happen. It could.

rhododendron sketch
(I know it says azalea buds, but they are rhododendron buds. Honest.)
ink on paper

But I decided that I would not let the savage attack birdies chase me out of my own yard. After all they don't pay the mortgage. They don't even pay for the birdseed! And I should be allowed to sketch freely in my own backyard.

So I stood my ground.

And sketched as quickly as possible!

Then I moved on to other sections of the yard. Ones that were further away from the freshly filled bird feeder!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Preparing for Spring

ink sketch of swing supplies

Perhaps the title should be "Preparing for Swing" instead...

Last Christmas my daughter received a swing as one of her gifts. She has always loved to swing. As a toddler she would swing until my arms were so tired I couldn't push her even one more time.

We used to have a swing set in the yard, but after years of solid service it became significantly less solid. We were forced to take it down before it fell down on its own!

Now there is a new swing. With the warm weather we are having it seemed like time to hang it up, so my hubby went to the store to buy the necessary hardware - chain to hang over the tree limb and two clips to connect the swing to the chain.

After he got home, I sketched his purchase. The chain links are so large I felt I had to include the quarter for size comparison. The 37 links of chain must weigh over 5 pounds! And each clip is rated to hold roughly 250 pounds!

I'm not sure how many kids my hubby thinks are going to sit on the swing at one time - I'm thinking the one at a time rule should apply here - but I'd say he's prepared for just about any number. I guess it is better to over-engineer and be safe than to under-engineer and have a pile of kids heaped under the tree! I wonder if he has considered reinforcing the tree limb...

If you enjoy my sketches, please consider signing up for my new monthly email newsletter. Every newsletter will include a sketch, news of events, details of what is happening in my studio and more! The first edition will be published in a few weeks. To learn more or to sign up click here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy Winter is 65% Over Day

This winter my husband has been sending me emails with a winter countdown of sorts. Each email is titled similar to the title of this post.

crocus sketch
watercolor on paper

Most years, as soon as we get through the shortest day of the year he starts saying "Winter is on the run!" Mind you, the shortest day of the year occurs in December, and where we live winter pretty reliably lasts through March, but that doesn't phase him.

This year he has taken it a step further. Using a calculation method known only to him, he has been having a count down and informing me of each milestone we hit. According to him "Happy Winter is 65% Over Day" was actually on Monday. Today might actually be 67.3% Over Day, but I decided a little rounding couldn't hurt.

My system for tracking the progress of Spring's arrival is a little more straight forward. I watch for nature's cues.

snowdrop sketch
graphite on paper

My snowdrops and winter aconites are up and blooming. The daffodil leaves are several inches tall. And the tips of the other Spring bulbs are starting to appear above ground.

We have had a mild winter, so I am finding hubby's emails entertaining. Last year I might have felt differently. You may recall that I was soliciting photos of Spring's arrival in other places because I wasn't sure if it would ever show up here and stay.

This week, to celebrate Spring's approach, I completed the sketch at the top of this post using the photo below for inspiration.

photo ©2011 M. J. Muir

I received this photo last year from Mary Jane who lives in Vancouver, Canada. The original sketch is now waiting to be mailed. This taste of Spring will be arriving in MJ's mailbox any day.

I hope that Spring is arriving as quickly as a sketch sent through the mail to those of you who are waiting patiently for it.

For those folks in the southern hemisphere, I hope winter takes her time arriving.

Happy Winter is 65% Over Day to everyone!!

In case you missed last week's announcement, I am starting a monthly email newsletter the first week in April. The newsletter will feature more of my original sketches, photos of and information about works in progress, and news from my studio. To receive the newsletter simply click on the "Newsletter Signup" tab at the top of my blog, fill in the required fields on the subscriber form found there, and click the "Subscribe" button. You will receive an email asking you to click a link to confirm your subscription. Click the link and your sign up will be complete!

As always, I thank you for your interest in my art and I hope you enjoy the new newsletter!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Announcing "Sketchy Details" Newsletter

I believe all artists share a common goal for their art of wanting it to be able to inspire feelings in the hearts of viewers.

Some artists use their art to make social statements because they want the viewers to experience social injustice and be motivated to action.

Some artists paint images of sadness, loss or despair so that viewers know they are not alone in these feelings.

My desire is for my art to inspire feelings of gratefulness for the beauty and blessings that surround us, because I believe that the seeds of happiness grow best when planted in a bed of gratitude.

There are also other feelings that my paintings embody. Things like love, fun, joy, and connectedness. I think the world needs more of these feelings, and I believe that they are all around us if we just look for them.

I not only look for them, but find them and share them through my art.

If you know anyone who would like more of these good feelings in their life, please direct them here to my blog.

And if you, or they, would like to receive my version of happy once a month right in your inbox, I am pleased to announce that is now possible with the start of my monthly email newsletter!

The newsletter will be delivered the first week of every month starting in April. In it I will share new sketches along with details of life inside and outside of the studio. Which is why I named it "Sketchy Details"!

To sign up please fill in the boxes at the right under the heading "Subscribe to my Monthly Email Newsletter" and click the subscribe button, or head over to this page and complete the form there.

I love sending my art out into the world. I am excited that I am going to get to share it in this new way. And I am so very grateful for all of you who take time to experience my art and read my words. Thank you!